|PROLEEK PORTAL TOMB
|This fantastic & much photographed portal-tomb is situated some 80m WNW of the
wedge-tomb at Proleek (LH004-075), on the grounds of Ballymascanlon Hotel on the
Deerpark road off the R173, 3.2 km to the north of Dundalk (Dún Dealgan). It is
marked as 'Dolmen' on earlier editions and 'Cromlech' on later editions of the OSI
maps with the Proleek river just to the west. The tomb consists of a chamber, facing
NW, represented by a massive capstone that rests on two, well matched portal stones
and a side stone. The capstone measures 3.8m in length, 3.2m in width and weighs 30 -
40 tons. The portal stones are about 2.3m in height. The side stone is buttressed by a
modern stone and concrete support. No trace of a cairn or mound is visible. Such tombs
may have been contemporary with court tombs and may date from as early as 3800 BC.
Burials, usually cremations were placed in the tombs and finds of flint, stone
implements, pottery and beads have been found accompanying the cremation burials.
As for the multitude of small stones atop of the capstone !! Well local tradition holds
that if you successfully land one stone in three on top of the capstone you will be
married before the year is out. Known as the 'Giants Load', another local legend is
that the dolmen was carried to Ireland by the Scottish giant named Parrah Boug
M'Shagjean who is said to be buried nearby after his fatal encounter with the
legendary Celtic warrior, Fionn mac Cumhaill. The earliest illustration of this
monument (image 7) is a sketch by Thomas Wright (1711-1786) in his 'Louthiana'
published in 1748 and represents the earliest example of a county survey of
archaeological remains. Wright recognised the sepulchral purpose of these structures
and dismissed as fantasy the notion that they were druid's altars. Wright believed that
the neolithic builders of these tombs used some unknown & very powerful machinery
for their construction: for 'how else could this people have upraised those immense
rocks for the majestic purposes of their religion? How else contrived to heave such
ponderous blocks of stone from the bowels of the earth, to transport them over hills and
valleys, to poise them on a single point, and to make them bow by the slightest impulse'.
The earliest descriptive mention, which also includes a photo image, comes from
Edward Ledwich in his 'Antiquities of Ireland' (1804), who believed the tomb type had
its origins in the north part of the island when he wrote that 'at Ballymacscanlan, in
the county of Louth, three great pillars supported a ponderous import : this was the
pended monument of the Northerns. It is called the Giant's load, being brought
altogether from a neighbouring mountain by a Giant, according to tradition. Here we
discover plainly the Northern origin of these monuments'. Borlase too in his 'The
Dolmens of Ireland' (1897), gives colourful account and photo of the tomb. He wrote:
'In the Town-land of Proleek, are two dolmens marked respectively Cromlech and
Giant's Grave. They are both in the same field, just to the W. of the stream called the
Proleek River, where it falls into a northern reach of Dundalk Bay. The tall one, which
is appropriately called the Giant’s Load, since, on entering the field from the river side,
it presents an exact picture of a man in grey walking away from you, and stooping
beneath the weight of a bulky sack of the same colour, which he bears on his
shoulders'. However, the best descriptive account comes from W.F. Wakeman in his
'Handbook of Irish Antiquities' (1903). He wrote: 'This fine cromlech is about 4 miles
north-east of Dundalk, and is known as the 'Proleek Stone', and the 'Giant's Load'.
The cap-stone is an erratic block of basalt, measuring 15 feet by 13 feet, and about 6
feet thick, and is variously estimated at 30 to 60 tons in weight. It is supported by three
upright stones of slender shape, and the total height is about 12 feet. Adjoining is
another cromlech of the extended form, and generally known as Giants' Graves'.
Borlase, William C., - ‘The Dolmens of Ireland’ Vol. II (1897)
Ledwich, Edward, - 'Antiquities of Ireland' (1804)
Tempest, H. G., - 'Journal of County Louth Archaeological and Historical Society'
(Vol. 1, No. 3, 46-47)
Wakeman, W. F., - 'Handbook of Irish Antiquities' (1903)
Wright, T., - 'Louthiana, or, an Introduction to the Antiquities of Ireland' (1748, book
3, plate 5).
54 2' 13.46"N...6 20' 50.53"W